systems thinking

  • I strongly believe in the promise of technology, when directed toward the right ends, to lead to a genuinely better world for all. But I would estimate that ninety-nine percent of technologies created today only create new addictions. They “improve” our lives only in the sense that they become our new baseline of expectation, ultimately creating new barriers to contentment.

    There are technologies, like medicine, which truly improve life for people. But most of the technologies which can actually serve this end effectively are psychotechnologies. We need tools and methods for cultivating robust well-being and self-mastery. We need to find and provide the keys to the kind of flourishing which is less dependent on external things, not more dependent on them.

    If we want to truly improve the world, we need to train people to build systematically better minds – our emphasis on “making people happy” needs to shift to “making happy people.”

    — Designing the Mind: The Principles of Psychitecture by Ryan A. Bush

  • Even with its imperfections, our evidence-based approach to learning about people, guiding them, and sorting them is much fairer and more effective than the arbitrary and subjective management systems that most organizations still rely on. I believe that the forces of evolution will push most organizations toward systems that combine human and computer intelligence to program principles into algorithms that substantially improve decision-making.

    — Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

  • The homogeneity principle states that the outputs of a system are always directly proportional to the input. In other words, twice as much in results in twice as much out. This principle, however, can’t predict the effect of the previous states of the system on the outputs. Often previous states have a significant effect on present or future conditions. In other words, linearity can’t capture feedback; inputs and outputs come and go without any connection between them.

    Systems operating in space and time will inevitably be affected by feedback loops from their environment as every action the system takes will drive some sort of consequence. This consequence will feed back to the future state of the system that in return will elicit a reaction from the system. Therefore, as soon as we position our system into the real world, things unavoidably turn nonlinear. The more feedback loops we capture and include in our system mapping model, the more realistic of a picture we get about reality — and the more nonlinear the world becomes.

    — The Systems Thinker – Dynamic Systems: Make Better Decisions and Find Lasting Solutions Using Scientific Analysis by Albert Rutherford

  • Use tools to collect data and process it into conclusions and actions. Imagine that virtually everything important going on in your company can be captured as data, and that you can build algorithms to instruct the computer, as you would instruct a person, to analyze that data and use it in the way you agreed it should be used. In that way, you and the computer on your behalf could look at each person and all the people together and provide tailored guidance.

    — Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

  • Soon enough, virtual reality environments may overtake our physical world as the primary locus of our experience, which means every aspect of our environment will have been designed by someone.

    Even today, it is hard to go anywhere that has not been deliberately shaped by human design. The concept of ontological design posits that in the act of designing our environments, we actually design ourselves, as the human mind is shaped greatly by its experiences. Hence there is a continual cycle of shaping between the individual and his environment.

    The earliest opportunity we have to shape our own behavioral algorithms is through the active structuring of our environments. This process allows us to avoid the inputs which trigger unwanted behaviors or ensure that we encounter those that trigger desired behavior. However, the purpose of environmental design does not just lie in avoiding negative cues, but in using cues to condition habits, making us invulnerable to threats when they inevitably come along.

    — Designing the Mind: The Principles of Psychitecture by Ryan A. Bush

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